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Music - Musicians - Interview | by Jacopo Andreini in Music - Musicians on 01/12/2008 - Comments (0)

Tsigoti (Waristerror Terroriswar)

Tsigoti is a collaborative quazi-punk band dedicated to spreading their disgust for war and all activities related to it. They are made up of members with a tremendous amount of experience in a wide variety of musical situations and enjoy the habit of defending their psyches by not taking themselves too seriously. Thollem Sickofwar spent hour after hour in Prague writing stacks of sheets of words during the war between Lebanon and Israel in 2006, sick in the head of war. When he arrived in Italy to play eccentriclect and free improve concerts he found himself with 3 days off, a recording studio, an ex-drummer (now saxophonist), an ex-electric bassist (now cellist), an ex-electric guitarist (now everything else), and a terrible beat-up old rickety perfect piano. Thollem wrote some songs in 3 hours using the words he had written several months before, and without teaching them to his new band mates they recorded the first album "TheBrutalRealityOfModernBrutality". They just met again this past July to record a second album "Private Poverty", play their first shows to wildly enthusiastic audiences, and reconfirm their collective skeptical optimism.

Interview recorded in the car on tour, September 25th, 2008
Jacopo, Thollem, Andrea, Matteo


SA - J: Here we are with WarIsTerror TerrorIsWar going to make the first gig of this tour. So Thollem, as you got the first idea of this project tell us something about.

T: Andrea Caprara and I were having breakfast one day and he said “when I was a kid I used to play drums in punk bands and now I am an old man playing free jazz saxophone in the country.” And I said “let’s make a punk band then!” and we had three days, no songs, but the right attitude. And I had a bunch of words that I’ve written I guess a week long in Prague during the war between Israel and Lebanon and I’ve gone mad about war. I didn’t had any intention for this words but I got them out, added some chords and we’ve recorded a bunch of songs together in three days. It was Andrea and I and Matteo Bennici. Then Jacopo knocked on the door one day saying “well, what a fuck!”. We had three days, we wrote songs, we did set- up all the equipment, there’s a very nice studio in Nipozzano and [it was] mixed and mastered in three days, but then one year and half later it’s been remixed and remastered by Alessandro Maffei, and that’s been great. I didn’t grew up playing in punk rock bands, I grew up playing classical music actually, which some of it was punk in its own time. So I’ve played on the beat-up rickety old piano that is in the studio, we figured it was perfect for the band and the sound, but it’s terrible to play. Yeah, it’s a very strange instrumentation for a punk ensemble. “Ensemble” is not a punk word at all, a strange orchestration, God I’m not a fucking punk, what am I?

M: I was surprised how the piano can match with guitar, especially with bass and drums, and build a very powerful and open sound to incredible wide variety of dynamics and timbers, it was pretty amazing.

SA - J: As part of the band and as listener also - as I came to participate to the project on the first album after the trio already recorded basically everything – [what makes a difference to me] it was all this improvisations about war, battles, battlefields and fightings. Having this band recording in Nipozzano (which is a house first of all, not a professional studio with untreated rooms) what is really unique to me is to have a very personal and specific sound coming both from the piano, from that kind of piano, well already having a real piano, which is in itself a physical amplifier, and also recording in a house gives you a very different feeling, and I think a very specific characteristic of this band is to be an aggressive acoustical band.

A: I think that what’s unique to me for this project is that is made of people as experience of improvised music and we’re trying to play improvised music in a punky way or punk music in an improvised way. That’s what it makes it interesting. And I think there’s a big difference between the material we recorded last year and the one we have finished now [the second album], at least because we had more time now to think about composing what we played, even if anyway there’s the freedom of playing in the way that you like anytime, and none is expecting something from other people to be played, that’s it.

T: Yeah, with the first recording I’ve just really put together a bunch of chords with this lyrics and some melodies and really barely taught them to Andrea and Matteo. All I’ve really said was “Here at this point there’s a change, here there’s a change”. Sometimes I told Matteo some of the chords and notes to play here and there, but for the most part they were improvised songs with attitude. I wouldn’t really call this punk music, but it got the attitude in the sense of the energy and the message and it’s not concerned for perfection but much more looking for energy and delivering the message.

SA - J: We spoke a lot about the inner vision of this band; now let’s say something about the output, the outside world. I mean, we are playing together, composing music and recording records to say something, something that people we think should listen and think about.

T: This band is very satisfying to me in the sense that I express my outrage about war and totalitarianism and poverty. Thru all my works and my albums, every one of them deals with social injustice and often directly and indirectly with war and totalitarianism, encouraging myself first and then others to wake up to the realities of these things. I said that it’s the first time in my life that I really feel that all of my interests come together in one moment in this project, fulfilling musical activism and it’s incredibly fun, and creative and inspiring and easy to play with these guys.

SA - J: Do you think that WITTIW goes in the line of other people, bands, musicians, composers, artists who tried in a more direct way to do something, not even talking about changing situations, but really in a very active way do something, like Conflict, Crass, Fela Kuti, not like Bob Dylan, I mean.

T: What do you mean “not like Bob Dylan”?

SA - J: I mean, for what I know, Bob Dylan is a songwriter, not an activist, while a person like Fela Kuti made, for good or bad reasons, but he made something so much against the government he was living in, that he’s been imprisoned many times, and risked his life and being beaten up and got scars all over his body... they killed his mother because they were not agreeing with what he was doing and saying. I see a difference. So I was wondering if we feel to be in some of these lines, if we are part of this way of protesting and using art as a tool or as a weapon to do something, which is not just saying “I don’t like war”.

A: For me, I can just reply quoting someone who said “do they think guitars and microphones are just fucking toys” (The Crass – Banned from the roxy). I was fifteen since I heard this sentence and I think that I’m living my life thinking that guitars and microphones are not fucking toys but they are useful to spread your message or what you think. So... yes I think that I’m doing this, but somehow it’s useless for me to think if I’m really doing this or not. I mean I like playing music, I like playing music with a message and I like to do it by myself, and of course all this comes out for me from punk attitude, but I’m not in the punk movement, I love Conflict, Crass Dead Kennedys and this kind of music, but I also love people that are not doing this, let me say John Coltrane for example. And I don’t know where’s the big difference, where’s the line between militant music and good music or something else. I know that for me it’s important to play in this band because this band has a strong message and I really agree with this message. And this band has a more evident message than other bands I’m playing with. Of talking clearly about something, not hiding.

T: I’ve spent many years of my life in my early twenties doing nothing but political activism, I was hardly even playing any music at all, a lot of antiwar activism, for ecology, and I woke up one day and I thought “what the fuck have I done all this years? The world is worst off than when I started as an activist and I neglected my music, that I’ve realized it was the most significant thing I can do in this world. So that’s why I said earlier that I feel that all of my interests are coming together in this group. I think that music is very powerful, more powerful than marching in the streets for instance, or maybe that’s an important aspect as well, but I have to play music to live, for my life and for my spirit and I can’t play music which is not significantly involved with injustices of this world because I’m way too sensitive to the existence.

M: I’m really grateful about being part of this band because it’s a great experience of four people getting together and dedicate a whole project to express musically one concept that include lots of other problems, and it makes me think and look for more information’s about war and about political mechanism that leads us to war and destruction in this moment. It’s a real powerful tool to express this opposition. And now it’s my way to dedicate myself to this problem. Even if it’s not a practical act, it leads to something that I think people are very sensitive about.

SA - J: For sure there are many levels of involvement in things, and many ways to react. Somehow to make a choice of life, being always on the road, to bring yourself physically in every possible place in many countries, in very different situations, in order also to play music, your music, and to bring what you believe in around, also to meet as many different people as possible, and I know that me and Thollem are doing it not like a mission but almost. We lose so much comforts, so much security, money, time, so much love relationships, including being in a couple, family or friends. We sacrifice all this in order to bring what we are able to do to as many people as possible that I don’t even think about that, because I just want to do it. I just feel that it’s right to do it. And talking about this things to people and saying how much I feel guilty not being more directly active like going in a place to dig a well, where is needed. And most part of people tells me “you’re doing already very much, a lot more than many others” because it’s true I’m not the best person to dig a well for many reasons, so there’s people who can dig a well better than me and probably I can play music or be on tour or sing from a stage better than other people. And so somehow we should be happy to do what we are able to do as best as possible, not being lazy. But is this enough?

T: From my own experience of being an activist and neglecting my music I’ve realized I was not utilizing the best tools I have. I’m a better musician than I am an activist for instance. And I think what’s important is that people live their life with the spirit and with love and are happy with the one who they are living their life and living and working for others rather than just for themselves. My life feels correct now and natural because I’m doing what I love, what I feel is the best talents that I have. I may be able to dig a well better than you Jacopo, but it’s also not the best way for me to use my time, I believe.

A: I think that music is just one of the aspects of life. It’s important to dig wells, everything is important of course; I don’t like to make comparisons among this. I think there’s a way of living life thinking of the problems of the world and another way not giving a shit about this. I give a shit of course and I don’t think I am useless because I’m doing some things or not. I think that activism it’s important, I may agree with you for example that sometimes I feel useless walking in the streets and protesting because our protest it’s completely unheard, for example with the experience of Genova in 2001 you are completely nothing to the power of the world, so all that I agree is that you always must try to be yourself, to say what you really think about things that are over you, mostly being frustrated for really doing very small drop in the ocean of people that doesn’t take care about this stuff. So everybody then, who digs wells in Africa, whoever does something really really important it’s probably doing nothing in comparison of what other people are doing to mess it up.
So I think it’s very important for us just being ourselves and do what we can do and we know how to do at the best

T: And I think it’s important also to have fun doing it, because otherwise... I mean, I got really bitter doing nothing but activism, and another bitter person that’s not helping the world at all.

© 2001, 2014 SuccoAcido - All Rights Reserved
Reg. Court of Palermo (Italy) n°21, 19.10.2001
All images, photographs and illustrations are copyright of respective authors.
Copyright in Italy and abroad is held by the publisher Edizioni De Dieux or by freelance contributors. Edizioni De Dieux does not necessarily share the views expressed from respective contributors.

Bibliography, links, notes:

Band Members:

Thollem Sickofwar - Piano, vocals
Matteo Bennici - Bass, Screams
Megan Baer - Vocals
Jacopo Andreini - Guitar, screams, vocals
Andrea Caprara - Drums, Screams

Pen: Jacopo Andreini


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PHOTO: Veronica Citi
PHOTO: Veronica Citi
PHOTO: Veronica Citi

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